Volterra is a town of great architectural interest located 1770 feet above the sea level, between the rivers Bra and Cecina in Tuscany, Italy. The main features are two fine castles and numerous Etruscan remains. The ambience of Volterra is extremely attractive, easily rivaling that of the more famous Tuscan destination of San Gimignano.

Volterra stands on a rocky hill some 1770 feet above the sea level, located between the rivers Bra and Cecina, and is surrounded by strong walls. The district is rich in alabaster, the working of which was an important industry of the city, and in mineral waters, such as those of S. Felice and the Moie, or salt springs. Still more important are the Soffoni of Larderello, from which boric acid is extracted, the sulphur lake of Monterotondo, the copper springs of Caporciano, and the baths of Montecatini Val di Cecina.

The Cathedral (duomo) of Volterra, consecrated by Callistus II in 1120, was enlarged by Andrea Pisano in 1254, and again in 1576. The high altar is adorned with sculpture by Mino da Fiesole. Among the pictures is an "Annunciation" by Luca Signorelli, and there are pictures by Benvenuto di Giovanni, Leonardo da Pistoia, and others. In the baptistery (1283) are a font by Sansovino and a ciborium by Mino da Fiesole.


In the Etruscan period, Volterra, called Felathri by the Etruscans and Volaterrae by the Romans, was one of the most important cities in the Etruscan Confederation. From the period of the kings, it was at war with Rome. In 298 B.C., when he became consul, Scipio gained a victory here over the Etruscan armies. In the Punic Wars, however, the city was allied with Rome. In 80 B.C. it was taken by Sulla, after a siege of two years. Remains of the ancient surrounding walls, including the Etruscan the Porta dell' Arco, may still be seen, as well as of baths, an aqueduct, an amphitheatre (see picture below), and, above all, of several Etruscan burial places.

In the Carlovingian period, Volterra belonged to the Marquisate of Tuscany. With the approval of Henry, son of Barbarossa, the government of it afterwards passed into the hands of the bishop, until his temporal authority was suspended by the commune. In the wars or factions of the thirteenth century, Volterra, being Ghibelline, was continually embroiled with the Florentines, who captured it in 1254, but obtained definitive possession of it only in 1361. In the middle of the city rises the Rocca Vecchia, built in 1343 by the Duke of Athens and enlarged by the Florentines. In 1472,  it attempted a rebellion against Florence but without success, and was then deprived of many of its rights.

The richness of the Etruscan finds made in and near Volterra make it a mecca for enthusiasts of all things Etruscan, with an unparalleled collection of Etruscan antiquities being displayed in the Guarnacci Museum.

Val di Cecina,, Pisa Province,

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